Former national champion Paul Oldham was in superb form as he led from start to finish to win the inaugural Ripley Castle Cyclo-Cross on New Year’s Day. A huge field of some 400 riders descended on the venue and, whilst the setting was nothing short of stunning, the weather left a lot to be desired.
Riders were treated to a long and challenging course through the grounds of the historic castle, taking in the deer park by the lake and nearby woodland as well as the castle courtyard itself, via the entrance gate and a short stretch of cobbles. For spectators there was the bonus of a café on the finish line.
The Senior race had attracted some of the country’s top riders and it was Paul Oldham (Hope) who started strongest and he was away on his own by the end of lap one, despite being pursued by a group including another former national champion, Ian Bibby (Genesis) and two of Oldham’s young Hope team mates Jack Clarkson and Mike Thompson.
Bibby caught and passed the fast-starting Clarkson and tried to catch Oldham. But Oldham took frequent bike changes, to guard against mechanical failure, and comfortably maintained and then extended his lead, finishing over a minute ahead of Bibby.
Clarkson finished third some two minutes behind with Thompson fourth just under three minutes down. Orange Monkey’s Billy Harding, in his second race back from injury and resplendent in his Junior National Champion’s jersey, was first Junior in ninth place. Second Junior was Zepnat’s Chris Barnes almost two minutes behind Harding with Nutcracker Racing’s Tom Seaman third and in seventeenth place overall. It was indicative of Oldham’s class that Seaman finished a lap down on a course where the leader was lapping in over 9 minutes.
Earlier, the day’s action had begun with the Youth race, which started in overcast but dry conditions. Paul Milne’s rider Alfie Moses took the lead from the start and held on to it to claim the win from Dinnington RC’s Ben Turner, who finished 33 seconds behind. Third was Thomas Mein from MTS Cycle Sport. Fourth and first Under 14 was East Bradford’s Euan Cameron, fresh from his National Trophy win. The first girl was Hope’s Lucy Horrocks, another recent National Trophy winner .
A novice-only race saw Adam Ward take victory in the men’s category, whilst first woman home was Amanda Newham. Judging by the constant smiles, all the novice competitors seemed to really enjoy the event, showing how accessible and fun Cyclo-Cross racing is. By tagging the novices onto the back of the Youth race (they started 2 minutes later) the organising team overcame the usual issues of limited daylight at winter cyclo-cross races.
Beneath darkening skies and with rain falling and temperatures plummeting, the largest field of the day – some 130 riders - was marshaled into the three categories, Veteran 40, Veteran 50 and Women. A long line of riders was soon snaking out across the field with heavy windswept rain lashing down in what were to be the worst conditions of the day.
The deer park rapidly became a mud bath, but GS Henley’s Mike Simpson, fresh from his win at Todmorden, soon had a lead, which he too went on to carry right to the finish to claim the Veteran-40 win. Second was Jedi Sport’s Andrew Pearce followed in third by Richard Noble of Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue.
The Veteran-50 race was one of the tightest of the day, with Pearce Cycles’ Peter Harris beating Teesdale’s Andy Cosgrove by just 3 seconds with Beacon Wheelers Jon Barjett 7 seconds back in third.
RST Racing’s talented Junior, Abby Mae Parkinson, led the sizeable Women’s field from the start and was very unlucky to be the only women not to lapped by Mike Simpson. Parkinson therefore had to endure an extra lap in the then atrocious conditions, whilst second placed Delia Beddis (Vicious Velo) was getting warm and dry, having finished a lap down, a minute after Mike Simpson had crossed the line. Third woman was another Junior Scott Cycles’ Sarah Lomas.
For the organisers, Harrogate Nova and Steve Smales, it was the culmination of several months of very hard work, during which they put together a top event from a standing start. Feedback from riders and spectators was incredibly positive and, ‘Cross riders being what they are, even the “epic” weather conditions were deemed to have enhanced the experience for many!
Speaking after the event, Steve Smales said “I would like to thank Sir Thomas and Lady Emma Ingleby and the staff and the Ripley estate for the use of the grounds and their assistance in promoting the event. They made us very welcome and enabled us to showcase the sport at an amazing venue. I would also like to thank all our other sponsors for the prizes and financial assistance and Yorkshire Cyclo-Cross Association for their help, equipment loan and advice. And finally, I’d like to thank all the riders and spectators who turned out on New Year’s day and brought the event to life for us!”